Friday, November 21, 2008

Guest Post: How Much Control Over Internet Content?

I'm delighted to have Ailsa Leadbetter as guest author today. She is Crossmedia Manager for vdBJ/Communicatie Groep, a Dutch media firm, and an astute observer of the European Internet scene. There seems to be both questionnable individual and governmental actions in this tale of the German Wikipedia site. Alisa wrote this on Monday, November 17 and notes that the main German Wikipedia page was still closed. It's open now. Her links all work, if you read German. I made the link to the English Wikipedia version because it tells the original story in considerable detail and gives updates as recently as today, all suggesting that the German politician learned an interesting lesson about the power of the Internet. Perhaps we should all pay attention!

Here's an interesting legal story: a German judge has closed the homepage of the German Wikipedia ( Apparently, a German politician was not pleased with his entry in the German wikipedia and asked the courts to close the homepage. He has also filed cases against 3 authors of his entry (, in German, sorry).

Thanks to the fact that the German wikipedia and are separate legal entities, German content is still accessible (through According to the Dutch article I read (, this injunction has caused the German politician in question much embarassment, probably more embarassment than the sections of his wikipedia entry that he originally objected to!

A few Dutch bloggers see a similarity to Nazi practices, specificially book burning. The injunction from the German court limits the freedom of communication, freedom of information exchange, in their opinion (and mine too, actually). Ironically, this politician was a member of the East German Stasi (secret police) before German reunification. It's a bit of a creepy tale, in that respect.

I just looked this guy up on the English Wikipedia and his entry there discusses this too. It says there that he will drop his case against Wikipedia Germany (but not against the 3 authors) but this morning when I checked the page was still closed.

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